Eating healthy on $4 a day


That’s the average amount individuals receive from food stamps, federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. In Iowa, it’s even less. SNAP participants here have to get buy on just $3.62 per day.

Millions of Americans struggle to make ends meet and put food on the table, whether due to a job loss, health issue, minimum-wage job or misfortune in their life. SNAP helps families and individuals purchase groceries, giving them access to the fuel needed for better, healthier lives and stronger communities…though it’s not always enough for three healthy meals every day.

The food stamp budget equates to only $1.39 per meal or $29.26 per week. What if that’s all you had to spend on groceries? Would you be able to eat healthy and thrive?

Eating on a limited budget is not easy, and there are times when a tough week can turn mealtime into a chore. Menu planning is essential. You eliminate stress by not having to think about what’s for dinner. You can ensure you have a balanced meal and save money at the grocery store. Here are some tips to successful meal planning on a tight budget:

  1. Determine what meals you will plan. Since the meal most families eat together is supper, that is the meal you may want to spend time planning. However, you can plan for breakfast, lunch, supper or snacks.
  2. Write the plan on a calendar. Create a family calendar that includes all your meals and hang it in your kitchen. This calendar should include other family activities so you know if you will be gone for a meal at night or have a really rushed evening.
  3. Check what you have on hand. Check your refrigerator, freezer and cupboards for foods that need to be used up in the next few days. Think of ways to include these items in your meals. Always plan a night to have leftovers so they don’t go to waste.
  4. Review the grocery ads for specials you can use. Save money by purchasing items on sale that you can pair with the foods you have on hand to help complete your meals.
  5. Keep a list of the recipes your family likes best. Having a list helps make meal planning go really quickly because you can easily spot the recipes that use things you have on hand or are on sale.

We challenge you to try eating healthy on just $4 a day by taking the DMU Snap Challenge. The SNAP Challenge not only sheds light on what it’s like to live on such a limited budget, but it can raise awareness of existing barriers like lack of access to high-quality, nutritious food. We’ve compiled several recipes to help get you started. For more great recipes and meal planning ideas, check out Good and Cheap, Leanne Brown’s cookbook for people on SNAP benefits, or What’s Cooking?, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recipe finder.

Disclaimer: This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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